Posted by: greercn | March 24, 2011

You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger

Oh dear. I really wanted to love this. “Sleeper” and “Bananas” are two of my favourite movies. “Manhattan” and “Annie Hall” were both very funny, despite veering a little too much towards therapy talk.

“Vicky Cristina Barcelona” almost brought Woody Allen back to life, after a long period of being off his best form. Everyone else loved “Vicky” and I just liked it.

The trouble with “You Will Meet” is that it can be very irritating. There is fun and humour here, but these charming moments pass too quickly.

One problem is that Allen’s London is a little too “Mary Poppins”. You almost expect to see Dick Van Dyke coming out of a pavement drawing.  In “Match Point”, London appeared to be a place where Black Cabs whisk everyone from grand home to five star hotel to stately home.

It’s a valid rich person’s London and that’s where you are still stuck in “You Will Meet”. I am certain Allen lives in this rarefied air when he is here. New Yorkers use taxis casually. Londoners don’t. Apart from anything else, the Tube is usually faster.

So, this starts to make you long for just one character to talk about the Olympics or to visit Shoreditch or to go to Canary Wharf or – well, almost anything that isn’t confined to twelve streets in Kensington, lovely though they are.

Even the ordinary strapped-for-cash characters live from grand hotel to Mary Poppins square. But they wouldn’t live like that in real life, would they?

None of this would matter if the story hung together better. The stellar cast should lift this and sometimes it does. Sir Anthony Hopkins plays Alfie, obsessed with regaining lost youth. That’s a good enough stereotype and we all know a man or two like that. Alfie has discarded wife Helena (a fabulous Gemma Jones). Helena is more than a little ditzy and her closest confidante is psychic Cristal, played to the hammy hilt by Pauline Collins.

Meanwhile, Alfie and Helena’s daughter Sally (Naomi Watts) is in a dreadful marriage to failed author Roy (Josh Brolin). Naomi affects a very good British accent that only slips twice. She works for art gallery owner Antonio Banderas. Antonio is at his best here and he and Gemma give two terrific performances in this film.

Josh Brolin has grown in stature and has been outstanding in everything I have seen him in during the last few years. I predict that he is now three films away from on Oscar because his presence and emotions keep your attention whenever he is on-screen.

“Slumdog’s” Freida Pinto plays Dia, the object of Roy’s yearning fantasies and peeping Tom tendencies. Romantic desires become more and more confused and – well, I don’t want to spoil it for you. If you don’t want to see it but you want to know what happens, comment on this post with your email address and I will tell all.

There are so many great stars here and it’s Woody Allen’s continuing reputation that lured them in. Anna Friel and Ewan Bremner are both charming and touching in offbeat roles. Philip Glenister, Lucy Punch, Celia Imrie, Roger Ashton-Griffiths, Lynda Baron and Meera Syal – as well as many others – are all here and have good moments.

The music is wonderful as Woody Allen really gets music. Nothing cloys or strays in the spot on score.

Still, for all its charm you are left with the feeling that Woody Allen’s Brits behave just a little too much like his New Yorkers. The publicly-displayed emotion here feels off kilter and wrong. New Yorkers talk like this. Some Northern Brits do too. I know London and New York very well and the dialogue of the Londoners sounds wrong, to me.

The Stratford Picturehouse audience seemed to drift in and out of the film, physically and mentally. People wandered and, during the slower bits, you’d see little phones light up with games applications.

Even those who adore Woody Allen will fail to name this as their favourite picture from the three-times Oscar winner. If anyone out there knows him, could you please tell him that I am available to conduct a “real London” tour, including notes on dialogue from all social classes?


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